Smart Networking for MBA Students: How to Schmooze Your Way to Success

Oct 23, 2014 - Joe Matar
We all know networking is important in any profession. But when it comes to business school, one cannot exist without the other. Business is networking. Business is about relationships between people. Learning to make the most of the networking opportunities and building relationships with the right people in business school will pay off down the line. So if you want to get your MBA or are enrolled in business school, networking should be a top priority. Read on to learn how you can network your way right to your biggest successes.

1. Start building your network early

Many people wait until school starts to begin building their contacts. Don’t be like most people. Start long before your first day of class. Join Facebook groups for your class and get to know your classmates. Find ways to interact with people -- whether it’s because you have the same last name, attended the same undergrad program or even share the same obsession with poodles. Many people think networking means only talking business or only studying together. But keep in mind that networking is about people. The more you enjoy talking to people in your network and begin to build real, lasting relationships, the more networking will begin to feel easy and natural. You should also make new contacts throughout your time in business school. Many new students establish their group of friends early on, then stick with those people throughout school. Sure, it can be hard to make new friends or (gasp) meet people in person instead of on social media. But part of your business school education is learning how to make in-person connections. In fact, some business schools actually teach classes in networking since many students lack the ability to make face-to-face introductions.

2. Think outside the MBA networking box

Your network should be extensive. Don’t limit your network to people who have the same professional interests or went to top undergraduate schools. Aim to build a network that includes a variety of classmates, professors and even secretaries or other university employees. Don’t forget that being kind to an office admin could get you an appointment with that professor who seems to be never around. University employees are also among the first to hear about internships, jobs and volunteer opportunities. Be kind to every single person you come across because you never know where the relationship will lead. An important resource for any MBA student can also be your alumni network. Make it a point to meet alumni every chance you can get -- especially ones who work in your field of choice.

3. Hone in on the right networking events

Avoid attending every single networking event you come across. Meeting as many people as possible can actually be a mistake. Instead, be strategic and use your time wisely. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. It’s better to pour your time and resources into developing a few key relationships than 50 that are less meaningful or shallow.

4. Build genuine relationships

The simple answer to developing genuine networking relationships is just that – be genuine. Don’t make friends with a classmate because they have wealthy parents or past business success. You never know who will be successful in the future. Some of the worst students make genius business owners. (Click here to tweet this idea.) Focus on people you actually enjoy spending time with. Down the line, they’ll make for the best partners and confidants. Remember to also be generous, present yourself well, stay active on social media and LinkedIn, and most importantly – have fun! Being a student is about growth and learning whether you become the president of a particular club or are the social organizer for all fun outings.

5. Leverage contacts for your future business success

The people in your network may one day be your colleagues. But they can be so much more. It’s extremely important to remember they can be your future customers, too! When you’re ready to launch a product, source marketing ideas or get feedback on a new service, you can tap your network for direction. Are you unsure if one particular product will sit well with your target audience? Try asking your network. As your future customers, they can help you decide whether to pursue that idea. It’s also important to extend your network to people who represent a variety of business skills. If you only spend time getting to know those in the finance niche, you’ll miss out on finding marketing talent or ideas when you really need them. Ultimately, business school is so much more than attending classes and learning crucial finance skills. The people you meet in business school are just as crucial for your future success. Catherine Alford is a full-time blogger, personal finance freelance writer and mom of infant twins. She writes about how to balance life and a budget all across the web including her own site, Budget Blonde.